States Members may have finally put an end to a heated debate on taxi fares that has raged for many years.
Senator Sarah Ferguson had attempted to repeal new legislation to place a cap on the amount public rank taxi drivers could charge, but it was rejected yesterday by a majority of States members.
Legislation paving the way for the change was announced in May this year by Minister for Infrastructure Eddie Noel in a bid to clamp down on ‘out of control’ fares after members of the public had complained of being charged drastically different fees for the same journey.
Under his reforms, passengers would be able to expect a set fee for each journey and no ‘hidden extras’.
But the moves led to protests in May and July from the Jersey Taxi Drivers Association (JTDA) – an organisation representing around 100 drivers - who complained that the Minister had failed to consult with them on the charges and that the new structure would create more red tape for the industry.
Pictured: Taxi drivers protested during summer over the fare reforms, which aimed to make prices simpler and more transparent for passengers.
Describing the new set fees as “arbitrary”, Senator Ferguson suggested cancelling the regulated fares – in force since mid-June – until the JTDA had been appeased.
“All the drivers are asking for is the ability to meet with the Minister for Infrastructure and sort out the tariffs. For this to be effective, it would be helpful to engage the services of a mediator, and the Order should be annulled and brought back once agreement has been reached,” she wrote in a proposition.
Debated yesterday, that idea found support in 15 States Members, including former Transport and Technical Services (TTS) Minister Deputy Kevin Lewis and Assistant Minister Deputy John Le Fondré, who had both wrestled with the issue during their tenure.
Deputy Le Fondré argued that the lost revenue from ‘extras’ including baggage and extra passengers, which is now captured in a flat fee of 20p, had not been assessed by the Statistics Unit, who had reviewed the rest of the new fares.
Pictured: Minister for Infrastructure Deputy Eddie Noel said that he had already made a concession to the JTDA by allowing them to charge nighttime fares on Sundays.
Deputy Graham Truscott, whose grandfather was a taxi driver, congratulated the Minister on his efforts to reform the sector, but maintained that “it wouldn’t hurt to talk” before making a final decision.
The Assembly even enjoyed a recital of The Cars’ song ‘Drive’ by Deputy Montfort Tadier, who voted in favour of the Senator’s proposition and suggested a ‘tabula rasa’ approach to the issue, which has long divided both the public and States Members.
But Deputy Eddie Noel maintained that concessions had already been made to the JTDA and that he could negotiate no further. The biggest concession, he said, was allowing them to charge a night-time rate – “higher than we wanted it to be” – on Sundays in a bid to ensure taxi drivers would still be encouraged to work on the weekend.
29 States Members, including the present Council of Ministers, voted against backtracking on the taxi reforms, which will now remain in place.
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